Baltimore Evening Sun (24 May 1911): 6.


The Voice of the People, as overheard an street car platforms:

The following inquiry is perfectly genuine:

Will the Editor please inform an unfortunate, through the columns of your paper. When and where pajama are used and do they take the place of a night shirt. I read in a story where passenger on train go from birth in car to the wash room and that men have come down from there roon in pajama to talk with persons who called to see them, is that respectable this full information oblige.

No doubt the ladies of the Inquiry Department will make answer, quite properly, that it is and it isn’t, and then proceed to an exhaustive discussion of pajama etiquette and ethics. Here there is room only for a brief elegy upon the passing of that decaying gaud, the old-fashioned night shirt. Who wears it today, save here and there some barbarous ancient, some hunkerous earthling, some maudlin worshiper of all things old? “Uncle Joe” Cannon, perhaps, and Tama Jim Wilson, who also sticks to boots, pulse-warmers and vermilion lingerie, but certainly not The Colonel—for didn’t a brave photographer, not so long ago, snap him in pink pajamas?—and certainly not the foppish young men who now rage and roar in Congress!

Gone, indeed, is the night shirt, that romantic vestment, that copious swathing, that stately robe! The orthodox model swept in one long, graceful line from chin to toes. It consumed yards and yards of canvas, cotton duck, drilling, silesia, muslin, linoleum, ticking or whatever it was made of. It had, in front, certain dignified embellishments—a yoke, perhaps, of modest lace, edged with pink or blue embroidery. The monogram or ranch-brand of the owner was worked upon the left cuff in scarlet silk. Sometimes there was even a pocket on the right breast—maybe two pockets. The collar bore military curlycues of scarlet thread. The texture of the garment was soft and it was soothing to the hide. Entering from below and emerging through the neck, the wearer felt himself serene, exalted and at peace—

As one who wraps the drapery of his couch about him
And lies down to pleasant dreams.

The pajama is illumined by no such romance. A man snoring in pajamas is but once removed from a man snoring in a dress suit. Sleep takes on the quality of a casual, a prosaic, almost a hateful experience. Imagine an alarm of fire in the night, the clatter of the fire engines, the struggle through the smoke, the descent of the ladder. In the night shirt of other days it was a great adventure; in pajamas it is merely a nuisance. A man clad in pajamas needs only a plug hat and a pair of goloshes to make him presentable in any society. Were he to walk down Charles street so clad, the police, of course, would drag him before Grannan, J., for punishment, for a policeman, being a professional moralist, regards everything unusual as indecent, but equally without doubt the astute Grannan would bid him go in peace.

The pajama, it is more than possible, may eventually displace all other raiment in summer, for day as well as for night wear. When the steamship Merida was sunk off the Capes the other day, one of the passengers escaped in his pajamas—and continued to wear them for 36 hours—until, in fact, he reached New York. I myself once wore pajamas for seven days and seven nights. It was on a tramp steamer, bound for the tropics, and the skipper wore the same comfortable and excellent costume. At meal times we would yield to convention so far as to step into carpet slippers. Between meats we went barefooted—and happy. The Chinese cook of that gay galleon wore Chinese pajamas, which run from the ankles to the waist, and then stop. Cooking, in the Gulf stream, is a hot job.

Alas, for the night shirt! The one worn by George Washington during the last 20 years of his life is now preserved in the National Museum at Washington. You will find it in a large glass case, with his pulse-warmers, his muffler, his eating knife and his false teeth. In 20 years it may be the last night shirt remaining in the world!

From persons who say of spiritualism that there must be something in it, and from those who say of an amateur violinist that he can make a fiddle talk, and from those who remark at funerals that we are here today and gone tomorrow—good Lord, deliver us!

Best-sellers that are worth reading—that is, if you have nothing better to do:

Contributions to the new thesaurus of platitudes:

The American language:

From a harangue upon the subject of “Scientific Boosting,” delivered before the Board of Trade of Holyoke. Mass., by the Hon. George B. Gallup. a distinguished boommaster of those parts:

It is not the business of the city to advertise, but to perfect the city, a cooperative undertaking, and it in the business of the individual manufacturer to advertise and promote the sale of his product to enrich the city, a purely individual undertaking.

Here we have bad English, perhaps, but extremely sound sense.

H. L. Mencken